By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

Local districts fared unevenly in recently-released state grades.

The grades — based on the percentage of students passing state tests called Smarter Balanced Assessments in math, English-Language Arts and science — showed continuing negative trends in math scores at The Brookings-Harbor School District (BHSD).

Math scores from last year worsened at Brookings-Harbor High School (BHHS) while science scores posted an upturn. English and language arts (ELA) scores remained roughly the same and were a district strength, however, BHHS students scored below state averages in all subjects –– math scores earned a level-one, the lowest score issued by the state.

Port Orford-Langlois (POLSD) students scored above state averages in ELA, math and science despite posting downturns in all three categories. Another year of similar results at the high school would drop Pacific High students below the state averages in ELA and science and bring their math score below a 50-percent pass rate.

Central Curry School District (CCSD) in Gold Beach posted gains in math and ELA scores but showed a significant drop in science scores. Gold Beach High School students remained above state averages in ELA and math but failed to reach the state average in science. The high school’s ELA score of 88 earned it a level-five ranking, the highest in the state.

Central Curry School District (CCSD)

Gold Beach Schools posted sizable gains in pass rates at both Riley Creek Elementary School and Gold Beach High School, and high school math rates rose 25 percent to 52 percent. This, along with an ELA pass rate of 88 percent, placed GBHS well above the state averages of 33 percent for math and 70 percent for ELA.

Districtwide students posted gains in most categories and grade levels except in science, where increases at the lower grades were surrendered at the 11th grade level. Science scores in high school declined from 83 percent passing in eighth grade — above state averages — to 32 percent.

CCSD Superintendent Tim Wilson targeted high school science as the category where the district will look to make improvements, adding it was difficult for a small district to score well in science.

“After enrollment dropped, we cut one of our two science positions,” Wilson said. “And it is hard to find a teacher who is equally qualified in both the biological and physical sciences.”

In math, Wilson said the new curriculum is working and praised elementary and middle school teachers for “ramping things up.”

Teachers Sue Hostler and Joni Jantzi took a fifth grade, self-contained classroom and turned it into a math camp, according to Wilson, and the results positively impacted math learning throughout the schools.

He said high school science scores throughout the area and state were skewed negatively by two factors: many students hit the state standard in eighth grade and do not need to take the science test in 11th grade, and the state standard in science does not have to be met for graduation — so failure has no consequences.

If the state standards are not met in ELA and math however, students have to complete a work packet to prove their competence, and science pass rates across the area show a drop-off from eighth to 11th grades that could reflect a decline in participation or motivation.

Port Orford-Langlois School District (POLSD)

POLSD Superintendent Steve Perkins complimented the districts’ teachers and said teachers along with excellent leadership combined to keep the district above state averages in all categories.

Pacific High School (PHS) Principal Krista Nieraeth said the school’s success is a testament to teachers and the quality of programs used there.

“We have the best staff in the region,” she said. “We have created a culture where people come to school every day and feel respected and safe.”

Educators’ jobs are made more difficult in POLSD, according to Perkins, because nearly 40 percent of its student population enters or leaves during the year. He added the district has had to replace nearly 50 percent of teachers over the past two years as well.

But he noted the district succeeded in spite of these obstacles and said the teaching remains consistently good.

Pacific High School math teacher Steve Taylor, who has worked with the state to write the tests and work packets for math, helped earn the school a commendation for being one of 40 high schools that outperformed similar schools on the math assessment.

Taylor – the only math teacher at the high school – said he is a non-traditional teacher, having come to education as as second career and having been forced to learn the concepts himself so he could teach himself and his friends when he was in the Navy.

“I had concepts and not book-steps,” he said. “And with small classes, I can teach one-on-one and stay on a topic until they get it.”

He emphasizes teaching how and why concepts work, being aware of the students’ background knowledge and having the freedom to revisit concepts until students understand them.

“I am excited that we are getting the opportunity to share what we do with other schools around the state,” Nieraeth said. “Mr. Taylor has gone above and beyond to provide the best math experience for all our students.”

Brookings-Harbor School District (BHSD)

BHSD Superintendent Sean Gallagher said the district would continue its focus on math standards and effective math instruction. He added the math assessment scores were unacceptable but said the district was not alone in this context.

“Looking at like-district data –– the South Coast region: Bandon, Coos Bay, Coquille and others –– we are slightly below average in math and language arts,” Gallagher added, “and above average for the region in the science state assessment scores.”

The district plans to continue extended school days and use additional staff to work one-on-one with students who need help, according to Gallagher. It will continue teacher development activities with Math Studio while expanding those opportunities to secondary teachers this year.

In all subjects, he indicated the district would be increasing real-time data from assessments and, in ELA, targeted skill-builder activities. He said the goal was for students to gain more feedback and practice.

“There’s a huge disconnect between what the low assessment scores are saying about our students and what our students are actually doing and achieving –– graduating, moving on to college, increasing dual-credits earned …” Gallagher said.

Gallagher and Azalea Middle School Principal Nicole Medrano agreed that district students fare better on nationally-normed tests and wondered why those scores are not translating to the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Medrano, while presenting to the school board Nov. 14, said, “Azalea students are doing better on nationally normed tests and the school is working to determine why that is the case and how to translate those abilities onto Smarter Balanced tests.”

Azalea will focus on writing, increasing access to reading strategies throughout the day and increased communication with home about reading nightly to increase ELA scores, according to Medrano.

She said, for math the school will focus on math intervention, Connected Math Project Resources and webinars and travel for site visits of other schools, along with other initiatives.

BHSD high school Principal Lisa Dion and Kalmiopsis Elementary Principal Helena Chirinian will address their school’s Smarter Balanced Assessments results at the next two board meetings; Dec. 12 and Jan. 9.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com

Percent passing rates for the three Curry County Districts in fifth, eighth and 11th grades are as follows:

BHSD

ELA

Fifth grade – 55 Eighth grade – 63 11th grade – 64

Math

Fifth grade – 36 Eighth grade – 22 11th grade – 15

CCSD

ELA

Fifth grade – 77 Eighth grade – 57 11th grade – 88

Math

Fifth grade – 68 Eighth grade – 49 11th grade – 52

POLSD

ELA

Fifth grade – 63 Eighth grade – 75 11th grade – 72

Math

Fifth grade – 31 Eighth grade – 55 11th grade – 50

State Averages

ELA

Fifth grade – 55 Eighth grade – 56 11th grade – 70

Math

Fifth grade – 40 Eighth grade – 41 11th grade – 33

To see complete Smarter Balanced scores, go to: https://schools.oregonlive.com.

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